Financial Times

Puritan Pleasure: Feet first

by Jackie Shorey

Imagine a shoe shop where you walk straight in, ignoring a window full of the latest styles. Where you sit down and just trust the assistant to fetch what will suit you. Where you can spend quite some time trying on different shoes until you find the right ones, and — when the Cinderella moment comes and you finally find the Perfect Pair — you’ll want to hug the person serving you. And where, almost as an afterthought, you’ll ask the price, by which time you know that, whatever the cost, you’ll buy them.

Run and Become is a shoe shop unlike any other. At branches in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh the serene staff will select running shoes from more than 150 styles. They love it when you bring in your old pair, taking great interest in where they’re worn down, and they’ll quiz you — are you road, trail, fell, track or treadmill? And what’s your mileage?

But the best bit is when they lead you out into the street. “I want you to run up to that lamppost and back...” said Bhashini on my last visit. And off I went, head up, Chariots of Fire theme in my ears and trying hard not to trip as she squatted down and squinted at my feet. “Not bad, but you’re over-pronating. Let me find something with a little more support.” Twenty minutes and six styles later she was happy — and so was I. But only £60... my dysfunctional attitude to shopping makes this part quite hard to bear. I feel I should pay at least a hundred quid.

The weird name? A weird explanation. The shops are run by Tony Smith who was inspired to start the business 25 years ago by Sri Chinmoy, an accomplished athlete who was also Smith’s meditation teacher and spiritual guide. Smith supports Chinmoy’s philosophy that sport is a vehicle for spiritual growth: “Run and become. Become and Run. Run to succeed in the outer world. Become to proceed in the inner world.”

Smith wasn’t the first to realise that buying shoes can be an almost religious experience.

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